ISLAMIC CULTURE What Do We Mean By It . i KHALIFA SALAHUDDIN AHMAD ISLAMIC CULTURE What Do We Mean By It KHALIFA SALAHUDDIN AHMAD 'Publtshed by THE NASHRO - ISHA'AT R A B W A H — West Pakistan . Printed at The Lion Press, Hospital Road, Lahore. ISLAMIC COLTUHB What do we mean by it ? mltnS - b ° dy - WOuld '? ainsa y that, nowadavs S d toTnd 18 " COntroversial *& It is rSy cnltnr. m , i?, a com P reh ensive dennition of su L a SttAS- S t y ft? thCre reaIly *&* sucn d culture on winch humanity can bank for a peaceml and prosperous social life True oee he fe5S CU - ' Ure -^ 1 ' enables us to livc togetner as a iamily, tnbe or nation R,,t- ;r T ?A de f rived of such a Primtry necessity o^slontnd 3 ^ ' ^ * WC are in a «tate andTuts ideoioi??h:ris ab r our soc i ai rhe wnriri «^«^iu» 1 nat is the cause whv Ho^er 'Bert? a n?t' iS , Under « turmonl S°,. e ; '■ i and Russel has depicted the Mtuation ,n hese wonls, «Thc conmct ei&ted nhiSsoll bel ° re tJ l e rf f of ' What wc ****** as SBP&S? " ^t quite eX P licit in aiready dSSLh ftSS '; J n Chan ^ forms > * h as persisted down to the present day, and no dn»h< will persist for many ages to comc " 2 "It is clear that each party to this dispute— as to all that persists through long periods of time— is Dartly ris?ht and partly wrong. Social cohesion is a necessity, and mankind has never yet succeeded in enforcing cohesion by merely rational arguments. In general, important cmhsations start with a rigid and superstitious system, gradually relaxed, and leading to certam stage, fo a period of a brilliant genius, while the good of the old tradition remams, and the evil, inherent in its dissolution, has not yet developed. But as the evil unfolds, it leads to anarchy, then inevitably, to a new tyranny, producing a new synthesis secured by new system ot dogma. (History of Western Philosophy, page 20). So, the present conhision and connict is a. natural outcome of the relaxation of the period which Russel terms as a "rigid and superstitious system." Obviously, he thereby means a rehgious period. It shows that no commumty or nation subsists, or has ever subsisted, without a rehgious origin, because it is the religion alone ; that lorms a nucleus of a strong cohesive attraction, around which mankind Aocks in such a congemal society as has been very hard for time and corruption to break it. It is about this stage of rehgious relaxation that Russel says : "A penod of brilhant genius" takes its place and the 'eyil unfolds, it leads to anar^chy, then, inevitably, to a new tyranny." Consequently, he holds that the present civilization of the twentieth century has brought the whole world in the grip of lts "new Lyranny," and it will bring about, as corrollary, 3 "a new synthesis, secured by new system of dogma." But to avoid this new synthesis or a reyiyal of a religious era, he says disdainfully : "The doctrine of liberalism is an attempt to escape from this endless oscillation, Whether this attempt can succeed only thc future can determine." Similarly, Toynbee has referred to this oscillative phenomenon in the "Civilization. on Trial" purporting that because our civilization has reached its self-destructive climax, there will inevitably succeed a religious era. Hence, it would be futile to hope " that pleadings of a selfish materialistic and dying civilization might help avert the nemesis. Therefore, for one thing, what we mean by Islamic culture is the /uture culture of the world. We claim it to be so 5 because of the fact that in the progressive series of cultural oscillations, Islam is the last and perfect religion, revealed for mankind, as God says, "This day, have I perfected your faith for you and completed My favour for you and have chosen for you Islam as the religion," (5 : 43). But Islamic culture would not, to be sure 5 bring about a rigid and superstitious system, as feared by Russel, it being noted that, Islam, and for that matter, the system creatcd by it, can be no other than a most liberal institution man has ever seen. I base this assertion on the Quranic verse itselti which says, "tn thc matters of faith, there shall be no coercion," c tW « Let them perish, who perish by their so that, ^ei uk. f > • wno survwe XdLTo« mculcate to teachin» *£■££ wtead it provides "clear prooi and tnertuy luows free play of reason to a seeker after the truth We arenot in the habit of presentmg a Sure W that may be *%* j^ »£* ;rSmp=Se to L C tn°derstanding and Lelli g enc P e of ^J^S^k M same reason, we can say tnai wwi ; Islamic culture is a social ^" "J^Lj 811 be subject to the scansion of human ^telhgence^ It should be also borne m mind ^that ™h*t we mean by Islamic culture is not the Sne S5n?« is usually meant by some of the ctolars h concerned. They take <^^£? viscissitudes which vanous nations and — tiM e-o throush in the process ot ielaxation. Such attempts have proved abortive m sohnng Sting cuhural con/ndrum. Neverthdess wha^ we mean by Isiamic c.ulture is its mterpretation Ts iUs applicablc to the present world conditions becau" the teachings brought by the great Prophet Muhammad, (peace and the 1 W«s^> ot Godbeupon him), were umversal, for God has said : "And We have sent thee not but as a mercy for all people." (21:107). Tn view of the controversial opinions m dehnlg cuhure, let us make the most generahsed and universally accepted pnn cl P le ^ ' ou J starting point. This will enable us to make a ^ comparatiye stucly of Islamic culturc, in the ho that our endeavour may heip elirninate sor of the underlying difficulties. Organically, man falls in the domain biological enguiry. I bring as witness an excer from the article under caption "biology" in t Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910), written I T. Huxley and P. G. Mitchell which runs follows, "The biological sciences are those whi< deal with the phenomena manifested by livir matter ; and though it is customary ai convenient to group apart such of the phenomena as are termed mental, and such them as are exhibited by men in societ under the head of psychology and sociolog yet it must be allowed that no natur boundary separates the subject matter of t? latter sciences from that of biology. Psycholoj and sociology is inseparably linked wi physiology ; and the phases of social li exhibited by animals other than man, whk some time curiously foreshadow human polic fell strictly within the provinceof the biologist." This exception makes it all too clear th social life of man should be viewed as benefici to mind and body alike, and not as somethii having a connection with bodilv urges on because as we have seen "psychology and sociolo are inseparably linked with physiology." In oth words, it means that k would prove harml to human nature if a culture looks after t material aspects only, divorced from mtty and spiritual sides. In the same way, if 6 soiritual code oflife, which pays no hcedio thc corporal exigencies, can also prove uyurious to 1° In this respect also, we can claim on ^eroundsthatlslanuakes full regard of both the ■ < Wparably linkcd" aspects of human hte and society. ...'■■ A recalcitrant may weH contend, however that because some of the animals, such « : ante and bees, instintively lollow such phas^ Qt social life" which «cunously foreshadow human policy," it shows that in due cOurse, m «^W* also attain a better culture on the basis ot Svival f the nttest." This plea presupposes that the mighty and his culture .should prevad and that the weak, together with his idedogy. itoOd vanish. We leave this debatable question whether this principle is apphcable m general or not it is accepted on all hancl that a majonty from amono- the animals are weak and yet they lourisl, Thereibre, the governmg pnncip ^ . of their survival should certamly be diAerent 1 om «survival ■ of the uttest." Nor is it a fact that survivalof ants and ^epends ^thwr social contra^! h withor P a r sodal life human existence sSm? to bc dimcult. Man is altogether a sui ^wAind in view of his being « ^ellectually conscious," so that he is apt to adopt any couSe of life -disastrous or benehcial --through •his iree choice. In contradistinction it has been ' proved, by observations and ex P enments, thatit s 4t possible for any other ammal to deviate of lile they follow instinctively. Yes, it is true that animals also possess a degree of consciousness but such consciousness remains confined to instinctive circles only, to help the fulfilment of the urges they are driven at; so that we shall call them " instinctively conscious " beings to show to this radical distinction. The Holy Quran lays down that man is not bound by a* instinctive course as far as his con- duct and career are concerned, save that only intellectual and endo-psychic understanding for good and bad, virtue and vice, have jbeeri provided in the character of his mind. Thus God says, "There is nothing for man except what he tries for. 55 As regards animals, we are told on the other hand, c; They do whatever is ordained for them." Further, as to the diverse behaviours of animals they evince, we are told, that they are symbols fbr men in order to enable them. to choose their course to order their life, humble or brutal, social or unsocial, satanic or virtuous, and so on. It is also said that "There are so many, who are led astray by them, and so many, who follow the right path." Thus not only treedom of conduct and behaviour has been bestowed upon man, they are also given the chance to win God 5 s pleasure and reward. To remove further any evolutionary misunder- standing regarding the cultural issue, let me quote Sir Eliot Smith, one of the loremost anthropologists of the day. lie says, "Although the use of the word evolution in ethnology is not half a century old, the idea to which this o error in terminology was unhappily applied, is \ much older. It can, in fact, be traced back as \ early as the eighteenth century and perhaps earlier still. But when it assurned the false label 'eyolution/ it acquireci the glamour of tashionable phrase and thereby. enjoyed an immunity trorn critieism. The idea of the independent develop- ment pf culture thus gradually hardened into a rigid dogma ...HenCe the process involved in originating and diffusion of knowledge and man's interpretation of it is something different from organic evolution. It is, therefore, dangerous and misleading to use such biological terms as c evolution' and c convergence' as so many writers are now doing, in relerence to cultural history and to circumstances that are fundamentally distinct from those biological phenomena in reference to which the terms in question were devised." (Erolution in the Light of Modern Knowledge, pages 299 and 315). Unless one blindly follows "scientihc ortho- doxy" one would have to face the fact thatncw cultures develop inclependently as a reVolution, not evolution, to save from utter destruction and to . open up new and peaceful avenues for lurther progress. The existing dominant culture, namely the the materialistic civilization of the twentieth century, along with its allied cultures which try to follow its footstcps 3 are chiefly concerned with the temporal and secular side of human affairs. The spiritual or, so to say, psychological its purpose the fact has eithcr been titally east aside or deliberately put in the melting pot. The result is that the material side of human lifc, with all its good and bad efFccts, has progressed so far ofl\ ( that the either side of the picture seerris to be of little importance at alh In sharp contrast there are cultures, that pay no heed to bodily and social requirements, contem- plating exclusive stress on spiritual aspects of life only. In the Islamic perspective, neither of them can be counted as true cultures, for we are urged to pray : u O our Lord grant us well- being of this world, and the well-being of the world to come, and thus save us from the fire of punishment." It would, therefore, be an utter falsehood to allege that Islamic culture, as a religious code, does not recommend a full scale material progress, hand in hand, with spiritual and virtuous life, as it has been esplicitly stated, <s It is exclusively for your bcneiit whatever there exists in the world," and not only this much, but we are also taught how to deiive benelit from the material world : "By putting your thought in the making of the earth and skies," that is, by scientific thought. That is why, at the achrent of Islam, old treasures of phiiosophy and science, buried for centuries past, were unearthed ancl in a comparatively short time, a great deal of advance was made < upon them. Since, however, acquiiition of scientific knowledge was enjoined as a religous duty^ Butit slackened with the gradual decline of faith. It followsv theretore, that there is. no other way for strcngthening a Muslim society materially than through a revival of Islam itself. European countries took to scientiiic pursuits in the teeth of strong opposition from Papacy anci the dread of the Inquisitors of Faith, because they found that it was hard to compete out an Islamic polity, the helds oi trade and knowledge. As a result of opposition of the ecclesiastical prince the gulf between religion and science deepened in proportion to the progress in the latter iield. In practical terms, all European^ nations are materialistic. Nevertheless, this great experiment affbrds to learn how far such a culture could prove a success so far as it is concerned with human well-being. In this regard I would like to bring Sigmond Freud as~ witness, being himself an ardent supporter of the present culture, and psycho-analytically a keen observer too. The quotations which follow are from his treatise, cc Future of an Illusion," exclusively 3 especially from the places where he has dealt with the present culture ..and.its effects upon human nature. At the very outset ,Freud has .realised, 4C One thought at first that the essence of culture lay in the : conquest of nature for the means of supporting. life 5 and in eliminating the dangers that threaten , culture by the suitable : distribution of these among mankind, but now the emphasis seems to have shiited away from the material plane to the psychic. The :4.:«~l «n^o+irt^ ig wVietlip.r nnd to what 11 extent one could succeed, hrst, in diminishing the burden of the instinctual sacnhces imposed on men j secondly, in reconciling them to thbsĕ that must necessanly remainj and thirdly, in compcnsating them ior these. He aiso 'said : "Thus in addition to the resources, there are the means of defendmg culture : the coersive measures, and others that are intended to reconcile men to it and to recompense them for their sacrihces. And these last may be descrived as the psychical sphere of culture." It is true that without some sacrincss no social life is possible ; but without a social life there cannot be progress and well-being. So, the question is, can an intellectual being regard it as good hving to suffer liie-long checks upon his liberty, imposed bv social prohibitions, such as, paying ever increasing taxes from his own earnings and property, sacriHcing his time or even his .nle to serve other members of the society without anv hopc of reward or "recompense" m this Hfe? That is why it is necessary to resort to "coersive measures" to preserve such a culture. thev cannot do it without U 1. U-, police and ' sometimes without- mihtary lorce, supplemented by cour.ts, jails and concentration camps to suppress human nature._ These itieasures ultimately lead to Irustrations and privations, causing discomfort antagonism and mental ills. The latest reports of genera check up show a heavy percentage amongst the intellectuals and the mediocres ot the . «i- i ««« PnrTArmrr frr\m ITl?inV WPCS 1£ of neurosis. At the same time there scems no other way to remove these ills, save as Freud has suggested, by entering in the "psychical sphere" of culture. He has expressed the hope that duration and habit may eliminate such ill feelings against the "culture" or that exclusive education rnay train human mind to get reconciled with cultural prohibitions and "instinctual renuncia- tions." Psycho-analytically, however, he is not hopeful, because, "That is surely an illusion ; in this decisive point human nature is hardly likely to alter," for the simple reason that man, being a rational and intellectual entity, it is difficult for him to endure sufferance for purposes of having a joyful life only. Human nature demands a purpose higher than living an animal life, besides a reward or at least appreciation for his deeds atid sacrifices which he does not get in this life. Therefore ? as far as human nature is concerned, nothing can serve this purpose except a religion and belief in the life- hereafter, Practically such efForts have totally failed where men were brought to live without a religion, as Freud points out : "Once i before, such m attempt to substitute reason for religion was made, officially and in the grand manner. Surely you remember the French Revolution and Robespier, and also how short-lived and how cleplorably ineffectual the experiment ? It is being repeated in Russia at present, and we need not be nurious about the result." The result is to be ' the same as it has been in the 'Free Europe' after a long and extravagant experiment, carried out there in the guise of 'modern civilization' of the 'enlightened' era. For still we find that, 'There are innumerable civilized people who would shrink from wurder or incest, and who yet do not hesitate to gratify their avarice, their aggressiveness and their sexual lust, and who have no compunction in hurting others by lying, fraud and calumny, so long as they remain unpunished for it ; and no doubt this has been so for many cultural epochs." "Cultural epochs," referred to by Freud in this context, mean the past civilizations which always grow as excrecent developments on ruins of their mother religions. It is true that, such cultures never proved a success. On the contrary, because of the inherent self-destructive factors, they bnng about the necessary conditions for ushering in a new era of purely religious import. , _ Freud himself has depicted the present conditions of the world, and said : "We see that an appallmg large number of men are discontented with civilization and are" unhappy in it, and feel it is as a yoke that must be shaken off, because, "It has been admitted that so far science has achieved much, but even it has advanced far further, it would not sumce for men." However, the cardinal question is how these gross deficiencies can be removed, and peace and comfort restored to the suffermg humamty under the crushing "yoke" of the present * •!• ,•-_. r? i «u^r^l-c- KaMr irnm Tar.in__ r tnlS pertinent question because he ibund it insolubie in a material perspective. He iinds himself "forced by necessity" to urge, "in all earnestness" "even if one knew, and could prove 3 that religion was not in possession of truth,. one should conceal the fact and behave as the philosophy of <asif' demancls..,and this in the interest of preservation of everybody. Also said he : "But such as they are, these ideas, religious in the broadest sense of the word, are prized as the most precious possessions of culture, as the most valuable thing it has to offer its members, far more highly prized than all our devices for winning the treasures of the earth, for providing men with a sustenance, or for preventing their diseases, and so forth ; men suppose that life would be intolerable if they did not accord these ideas the value that is claimed for it. "But on the other hand, if experiments have any conclusive value, then this great experiment, carried out at the expense of human sufferings and sacrifices, undeniably bring us face to face the deep reality that reverence and love for the Maker is instinctive in human psychique. Without this man would never find comfort and peace of mind, as his Maker Himself has said : "Only in the remembrance of God men's hearts are comforted." It also proves incontestably that it is dangerous, for, individually or collectively, he may be compelled to endure a purely secular and materialistic culture. That is why, in view of such a culture, Freud admitted his inability for "constructing a 15 himself forced "in the interest of preserving everybody" to have a recourse to religion, in spite of being fully aware of "the admission that religion no longer has the same inAuence on men that it used to have, (we are concerned here with European Ghristian culture), And this, not because its promises have become smaller, but because they appear less credible to people." In reality the religion, for which humanity is yearning today, is that which should be convincing according to the highest intellectual vision ; and be able to fulfil the needs of the world as a whole. This is not true of the religions which envisage to solve the limited problems of the communities living long ago and were conhned in different regions of the world. Past religions, especially with their distorted and adulterated contents, are not expected to solve present problems, or to create a healthy atmosphere that may bring about a change in the existing climate of opinion. Otherwise, Freud would have never said : "We say to oursdves, it would indeed be very nice if there were a God, who was both creator of the world and a benevolent providence, if there were a moral world order and a future life, but at the same time it is very odd that this is all just as we should wish it ourselves. And it would be still odder if our poor, ignorant, enslaved ancestors had succeeded in solving all these difficult riddles of the universe," though indeed, He possesses the same and even more praiseworthy the old and obsolete religions are not clynaiinc cnough to conyinee the present mind. We arc not dealing here with a culture of our ibroiathers m retrospect. We are presenting a culture which k chronologically the latest, and has been preserved bcyond doubt m the self-sarne fbim it was revealed. Afortiori it is a comprehensive moral order, pertaining to a world society as a unit ; and with a promise to refresh i,ts teachings by reformers to be raised as, and when needed, in^consonance with the demands of the fastly progressive worid. It is true that until we do not "get day to day proof of a Living God ? no by-gone scriptures and long forgotten miracles would convince hurnan mind. ^Therefore, lslamic culture also signihes thatitisa Providential code of life, revealed by the Living God with axiomatic proof to bring about complete conviction against modern scepticism. I don't .think that any iurther proof would be needed to show that a materialistic code of life, that is to say a culture without religion, can bring about human well-being no matter how much earthly wealth, alluring lives, great power and what not in human nature, would continue its quest for a real culture, where spiritual comfort and material progress should be blended together in a wholesome manner. Besides, there are many other points, which have been settled after a long and bitter experimentations in favour of Islamic cuiture. An instance in point is the pre-Islamic ritual of burning or burying women slaves alive with their dead masters. On thc other hand Islam eradicated slavery, root and branch, and cven the prisoners of wars who can be called slave in a way must be set free at the earliest. Women were given first even the right to divorce and inheritance to property to relieve them of a merciless and inhuman subjugation. Though modern civilization has, willy-nilly, abolished slavery, it has kept the feminine sex in the same precarious condition of remaining without the right of divorce and of inherting property. By disallowing polygamy, which in certain circums- tances and with a limitation of number was allowed by Islam 3 the western culture claims a great achievement. But experience has established that it was a worst type of slavery that women were not being admitted right to separation, and the right to share aa inheritable property. Though recently, these rights have been recognized only to establish supremacy of Islamic culture. On the other hand it is also being strongly felt, that such occasions do arise when polygamy become an indispensible necessity. There can arise a political necessity, t6 create better relations and nearness between countries, nations or tribes, Besides to give protection to widows pr women in a country where incidentally they increase in numbers over rnen, as for the same fact the present condition of Europe itself has become expedient for polygamy; where the increase in number of women is being felt as unhealthy consequences for a normal social life. It would be surprising to note that to remedy this morbid situation first step has been taken by the women themselves. Recently, it was disclosed in thĕ British Parliament, that young and independent girls join together in twos, threes, or fours and keep jointly a male bnly to look after them and their household affairs. However, it was questioned whether this practice is not the type of polygamy being in vogue in Burma, initiated by women and rendering the male members of the country addict to narcotics and idleness ? There are so many other issues, in connection with politics, economics, international affairs, where, after many trials and errors, conclusions are being drawn nearer and nearer to what has been laid in the Holy Quran as the ultimate solution of future problems of the world, for creating peaceful ? progressive and comfortable atmosphere. For example, democracy, tolerance, mutual help for economic and educational uplift, elimination of colour and racial prejudices, etc. But these and all other issues to bring about a real and congenial culture for mankind can be realised in full measures and in a most healthy atmosphere if and when Islamic culture is allowed to prevail.